Match reports


Toss: England

Toss: England. Test debuts: G. S. Blewett, P. E. McIntyre.
An over-confident and ill-paced attempt by Australia to score 263 in 67 overs led to England's first Test win in Australia for eight years, a further example of the ability of Atherton's England to win occasional Tests when the odds were most stacked against them. Handicapped by injury and illness as England had been in Brisbane and Sydney, here they were reduced to five fit batsmen, injuries to Hick (prolapsed disc), Stewart (index finger - for the third time) and Fairbrother (shoulder) having forced them out of the tour. Additionally, Gough had flown home with a foot in plaster. Lewis, who had been playing sub-district cricket in Melbourne, joined the party, while Ramprakash, vice-captain of the England A team, was summoned from India as the tourists' sixth and final reinforcement.
In keeping with this disordered background, Gatting, who thought he had played his final game on tour, made the top score of the match: a laborious 410-minute 117 which ensured England did not wholly waste an opening stand of 93 after winning a useful toss. It was Gatting's first Test hundred since 1987, tenth in all, and one that he will never forget. Taylor made him fight for every run, with Warne and McDermott helping to hold him for 77 minutes in the 90s - an agonising 31 minutes on 99. It was almost as much a relief to the 16,000 crowd as it was to Gatting when, in the 11th over of McDermott's mighty spell, a crooked throw by Steve Waugh enabled Defreitas to complete a jumpy single after a stop-go in mid-pitch. Gatting was last out, caught at short third man mistiming a leg-break from Peter McIntyre, one of two new caps. The other, 23-year-old Greg Blewett, became the 16th Australian to score a hundred on Test debut.
Slater and Taylor opened with a commanding 128 on an even-bouncing pitch with no extra pace. Some rebuilding was needed when Taylor was removed by a questionable lbw and Mark Waugh was beaten by Fraser's late movement next over. But Blewett and Healy advanced to 394 for five by the close and a match-winning lead seemed likely. Instead, the five outstanding wickets fell in 50 minutes, Blewett needing the support of McIntyre at No. 10 to see him past his hundred - just as last man McDermott returned from hospital after suffering stomach cramps. More used to opening for South Australia, Blewett, lightly and athletically built, gave no chance in 261 minutes, handsomely cover-driving boundaries off balls most batsmen would have pushed for ones and twos.
England resumed only 66 adrift, and Thorpe scored a dashing 83 after lunch on the fourth day. Despite Warne's waning influence, however, England appeared to be heading for a third defeat when Lewis was bowled at 181 for six. Crawley and Defreitas steadied the ship, but England's lead was only 154, with four wickets standing, at the close. Next day, however, with nine overs to bowl before the new ball, no established third seamer, and Fleming troubled by a hamstring, Taylor chose to open with McDermott. The move misfired. From the moment the new ball was taken Defreitas saw it like a football - and a flagging McDermott was hammered for 41 in three overs. Mark Waugh, en route to a Test-best five for 40, ended a run-a-minute stand of 89 with a return catch off Crawley. Defreitas, though, hitting classically through the off side, proceeded to plunder 22 off McDermott's third over - four fours and a six. He was deprived of a deserved maiden Test hundred when he was caught at the wicket pulling Waugh. Orthodox but aggressive, without a single ugly stroke, he scored 68 of England's 108 in 18.5 overs on the final morning. In all Defreitas batted exactly two hours, hitting two sixes and nine fours off 95 balls.
On a pitch still favouring the bat, it was hard to see beyond a draw or a third home win when Australia were 16 for no wicket at lunch. But just afterwards, Taylor was caught at first slip, whereupon three more fell in 16 balls. Steve Waugh was beaten by Malcolm's pace and bowled between bat and pad, but Boon and Slater - mis-hooking - made presents of their wickets. Australia were unlucky when a deflection from Gatting's toecap at short leg bounced into his hands, dislodging Mark Waugh who was batting easily. But the damage was done: when Lewis dismissed Warne and McDermott in the over spanning tea, Australia were 83 for eight. Fleming stayed with Healy nearly two hours but, with eight overs to go, a short ball from Lewis stayed down, trapping him lbw as he tried to pull. Finally Malcolm, replacing Tufnell, won an unconvincing lbw against McIntyre with his range-finder. England won with 35 balls remaining. Healy, with a second disciplined fifty, showed how easily the match could have been saved.
Referee John Reid later fined Lewis 30 per cent of his fee for pointing McDermott to the dressing-room. Reid also punished the entire England team for their slow over-rate, levying a fine of 15 per cent and reprimanding Atherton.
Man of the Match: P. A. J. DeFreitas. Attendance: 89,448.
Close of play: First day, England 196-2 (M. W. Gatting 50*, G. P. Thorpe 16*); Second day, Australia 81-0 (M. J. Slater 36*, M. A. Taylor 43*); Third day, Australia 394-5 (G. S. Blewett 91*, I. A. Healy 72*); Fourth day, England 220-6 (J. P. Crawley 49*, P. A. J. DeFreitas 20*).